In Which A Teenager is Awesome

November 16, 2010 § 1 Comment

by MIRANDA

Jay McDowell, a high school teacher in Michigan, was recently suspended for reprimanding a student who allegedly walked into his classroom and said: “I do not support gay individuals.” (I agree with the linked Queerty writer who doubts that “gay individuals” was the actual word choice; it’s likely that some colorful slurs were used instead.) A 14-year-old student was videotaped speaking in defense of McDowell at a school board meeting. Graeme Taylor (or possibly Graham Taylor — there’s some discrepancy regarding his name, forgive me for the uncertainty), who is gay, delivered a beautiful speech. I’ve transcribed it below.

My father is Kirk Taylor, he’s a teacher at Hartland, and he tells me about things that go on in this area. It seems like a nice community. I myself am gay and I’m a young person, and that can cause lots of trouble. And when you hear of things like Dr. King’s speech that one day he wanted his grandchildren, his posterity, to not be judged on the color of their skin but the content of their character, I hope that one day we too can be judged on the content of our character and not who we love. Howell [Michigan] is the headquarters for the Ku Klux Klan. Does that really sound great on your racism record? The fact that they chose this city to come into? And you probably want to get rid of that. So how would you like more headlines of “Howell denies gays,” “Howell doesn’t protect them.” This teacher, whom I fully support, finally stood up and said something. I have been in rooms, in classrooms, where children have said the worst kinds of things. The kinds of things that helped drive me to a suicide attempt when I was only nine years old. These are the things that hurt a lot. There’s a silent holocaust out there in which an estimated six million gay people every year kill themselves. Is this really the environment we want for our school? Do we really want this on our record? Now, I’m saying that the best thing you can do right now is just give him his pay for that day, and just reverse the disciplinary actions. He did an amazing thing. He did something that’s inspired a lot of people. And whenever, ever, I have a teacher stand up for me like that, they change in my eyes. I support Jay McDowell, and I hope you do too.

Jezebel: Still Not Progressive

September 1, 2010 § 1 Comment

by KATIE E.

Nope. Unless your idea of busting the kyriarchy involves heteronormative, classist, ageist, woman and sexuality shaming, pro-rape bullshit.

Overall, the entire piece fails due to its insistence that the only “real virginity” is man’s penis into women’s vagina. It makes no reference at all that might not be true for people who are trans,  non-gender binary conforming, bi/pan/asexual, lesbian, gay, and/or queer identified. Plus, it effectively erases people who simply choose not to have PIV sex, or don’t want to count it as “losing their virginity” due to rape/assault/other trauma, or the belief that oral/anal/something else was their “first time.” And what about people who can’t or can’t comfortably have PIV sex due to sexual dysfunction or a similar condition?

None of these people exist in Jezebel-land.

You know who else is apparently a figment of my silly feminist imagination? Twenty something virgins. Instead of respecting the fact that someone couldn’t or didn’t want to do it before they hit 21, let’s talk down to them and insist they need a “a solid core of female friends to guide you through the first-time sex experience” or “Get out of town. Preferably Paris, France. Pick an attractive, mysterious European stranger who doesn’t speak a word of English and is totally inappropriate for your real life, but perfect for this occasion.” You know, I really have no problem with one-time sex with someone you don’t know, even if it’s your first sexual experience. Nothing wrong with that. But doesn’t the idea of picking someone who can’t understand the language you speak scream with consent issues and sound a little like rape? Or actually, sound exactly like rape because that’s what it is?

Besides, how many twenty-somethings (or anybody, really) can afford random European vacations? Not a whole lot, yet the piece  normalizes it and doesn’t offer solutions for the many people who can’t do it.

The entire piece just perpetuates the culture of  shaming women for not having their first sexual experience go a certain way, something that conservatives are regularly called out on. Jezebel would refuse to publish a piece telling women the best way to have first-time sex is after the wedding, but they are fine telling women they need to have a party or be drunk. While their isn’t a huge culture of shame forcing their advice, it’s still the same concept: telling women they don’t know how to handle their own sexuality. It’s time that all of us-conservative, progressive, or somewhere in between-trust women enough to know if, when, and how their first sexual experience will take place.

Target and Tom Emmer

August 15, 2010 § 1 Comment

by CHAD
Being old news, I’m sure that most people have heard about how Target gave $150,000 to an anti-gay candidate. Aside from the fact that corporations shouldn’t be involved in politics like they already have through lobbying efforts that blinds our congress, the LGBT & Supporting community have boycotted Target for its donations.

A man stated this about the recoil from the LGBT community:

Interesting, huh. So now a company can’t donate money to a candidate they support without this [being pro-gay]. Of course right wingers have Fred Phelps and his whack jobs protesting funerals. But, two wrongs don’t make a right.

I’m sure many others have this opinion. The candidate is pro-business, but anti-gay, why wouldn’t Target want to invest in this?

Well here’s what you don’t know about Emmer’s casual anti-equality legislation, aside from him being anti-choice and for a constitutional amendment that bans gay marriage (but thinks the government should stay out of peoples’ lives, also hypocritical to him passing a smoking ban), he supports You Can Run But You Cannot Hide Intl., Inc.

This company is not only a Christian company that wants to get involved in schools, which Emmer also supports, but is very anti-gay, and has said some vicious things about the LGBT community e.g. calling homosexuality a mental illness, which has been disproved many times by the American Psychological Association.

So, I tell you, why shouldn’t Target promote a pro-business candidate that’s a homophobe? For the same reason that Target shouldn’t promote a pro-business candidate that wants to teach children that evolution is a sin, and that homosexuality is a mental illeness. For the same reason that Target shouldn’t promote a candidate that believes that women shouldn’t be given an equal foothold in the world. For the same reason that Target shouldn’t promote a pro-business candidate that thinks that one race is superior to another and slavery is okay.

This isn’t a push to put out any candidate that is against equality, it’s a push for the LGBT community to be respected as normal people. Tom Emmer doesn’t have a good reason to ban same-sex marriage and parenting, his objective is a religious agenda. Even being pro-business, we should step back and realise that one’s liberty should come before profits.

MTV: Torn between being relevant, and being a toolbag.

August 8, 2010 § 2 Comments

by ELENA

MTV seems to be confused, or having an identity crisis. On one hand, programs such as the reality series If You Really Knew Me and Teen Mom are tackling sensitive issues such as the stresses of being in high school, and the challenges of being a teenage parent. On the other, they are responsible for the drunken shenanigans of the Jersey Shore cast and the “fame” of Mr. Ryan Leslie, member of Real World: New Orleans, who loves making homophobic remarks on camera, and on his Twitter page.

I was impressed by If You Really Knew Me, because I have gone through the Challenge Day retreat that the MTV cameras are documenting, and I think that it’s great that such an awesome organization is getting more publicity. One of the things that was discussed at my Challenge Day was the pressure for many teenage boys to deliberately harass other people, in order to prove that they were “manly” enough. We also did exercises to show how hurtful bullying/name calling/teasing were, and that ridiculing someone based on their appearance, sexual orientation, etc was wrong.

Perhaps the Challenge Day people should host a retreat for the casts of the Jersey Shore and Real World NOLA. The fact that MTV decided to cast such a cruel bigot as Ryan (most likely for his “shock value”), and has done little to hold him accountable for his actions makes me sick. Did producers really think that by having Ryan on the show, that people like me (young college students) would watch in droves? Are advertisers really okay with selling their products during this trainwreck of a show?

Here’s some suggestions for MTV to increase viewership:

1. In the words of the great troubadour Justin Timberlake, PLAY MORE DAMN VIDEOS.
2. When not doing number 1, promote shows such as If You Really Knew Me, True Life, Teen Mom, and other programming that does not include fist pumping, drunken shenanigans, or total assholes all living together in one McMansion
3. Perhaps take a page from Current, and promote viewer created content. Young people + cameras + subjects they are passionate about = content that would be vastly superior to Date My Mom.

I wonder if MTV fears that if they promote more non-shitty programming, they will lose viewers/revenue. Honestly, losing the viewership of total and complete douchenozzles in favor of gaining the viewership of people like me (who have a disposable income that could be spent on advertisers *cough unsubtle hint cough cough*) is no tragedy.

Also, why the crap is MTV doing a US remake of Skins? Is this really necessary? [Answer: because they think it will make them money, and no.]

Calling All Readers: Help me boycott Target in a creative way!

August 3, 2010 § 9 Comments

by ELENA

Nationwide retailer Target (alternative pronunciation: Tar-zhay) has wound up on many people’s consumer shit lists (mine included) due to the recent news that an executive at the Minnesota based chain donated $150,000 to a Republican candidate who is against LGBT rights legislation. But wait–there’s more! In the past, Target’s CEO has given money to such fine, upstanding individuals as Michele Bachmann.

I’m shocked and disappointed by this behavior, because according to the Human Rights Campaign’s Buying For Equality 2010 guide, it has a prefect score, meaning that it has policies supporting LGBT employees in place.

I want to do more than just write the requisite “I’m-not-going-to-buy-your-stuff” letters to Target higher-ups.

So, fellow readers and contributors, I’m looking for creative and effective ways to protest Target’s recent decisions that:

-Will not get me arrested (being asked to leave a store, or being banned from a store is fine.)
-Will not make other Target employees jobs more difficult. So, while Karen’s suggestions would certainly get the point across, that would lead to a lot of pointless work for employees that have little control over the retailer’s policies.
-Will be effective regardless of the number of people participating.
-Will be enjoyable to do.

Shopping should not have to be a constant weighing of the lesser of two evils. And I fail to see how maintaining a healthy business, and promoting basic human rights are mutually exclusive issues. Shame on you, Target.

UPDATE: Target’s CEO has issued an apology for their donation to Rep. Emmer, but many organizations, including the Human Rights Campaign aren’t convinced that Target’s apology is genuine, and want the mass retail to back up their words with actions. I’m still looking for protest ideas, because I’m not buying their apology, either.

UPDATE, PART TWO: I’ve come up with a pretty cool idea for a protest, which involves dressing up as Zombie Michele Bachmanns, and doing the Thriller dance outside a Target store. Are any readers in the Grand Rapids, MI area interested in joining in?

UPDATE, PART THREE (THOUSAND): A flash mob group performed an adapted version of DEVO’s “People are People” in the Target store. Check out their video below.

Westboro’s Hate Monument

July 23, 2010 § 2 Comments

by CHAD

We’ve all heard of them: Westboro Baptist Church. We’ve heard their messages of hate and divisiveness, and most importantly we’ve heard their very loud statements of why gay people will go to hell. They’ve decided to pull out a new move to add to their collection of homophobic statements to the USA, and the world. Aside from their decision to protest Lady Gaga’s concert (and their direct statements that God hates Lady Gaga, a modern Gay Icon), they’ve also made the hateful decision to make a monument dedicated to the condemnation of Matthew Shepard, a Gay Icon unfortunately known for a gruesome hate crime.

I can’t even describe how disgusting that is to me. Westboro Baptist protests the funerals of straight soldiers (and I’m sure gay ones) simply on the basis that gay people aren’t being stoned to death. They now go to the extent of promoting the murder of a young man, simply on the basis that he was gay. Casper, the city in which the monument was to be placed, voted down the placement, and it led to a civil case that reached the Supreme Court, which decided that preventing the monument from being placed is not a violation of free speech.

I am not Mandy Slade, but thanks for the sweeping generalization.

July 22, 2010 § 10 Comments

by ELENA

This morning, I went to my local Health Department in order to get tested for HIV. It was free, quick, and I tested negative. I also managed to curb-check the family station wagon on my way there, and so explaining to my parents why the steering was messed up wasn’t fun.

There was one thing that irritated me, though.

The nurse who administerd my test reacted very negatively when I explained that my boyfriend was bisexual. She said that it was very plausible that he was lying to me about his sexual history, and that he should get tested for HIV right away.

I was a little dumbstruck, but in no mood to piss off the person responsible for performing an accurate test.

When will we get it through our heads that gay/bisexual man does not equal “lying asshole who has every single STD known to humanity”? The main reason why I decided to get tested was not because I suspected that my boyfriend was lying to me, but because I was concered that any of my straight exes may have had an STD they had not told me about. In middle school, my health teacher stressed that HIV/AIDS wasn’t a “gay disease.” In high school, my gym teacher said we shouldn’t worry about HIV because only men who have sex with men are at risk. I’m pretty sure that I’m not the only person who received mixed messages about HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases while they were growing up, and these mixed messages are what lead to people making inaccurate assumptions.

I’m lucky that my parents and friends are very supportive of my relationship, but I also have to wonder if there more people like my nurse out there: Well-meaning people that are convinced that my health is at risk because of who I am dating, or that I am kidding myself because bisexual men don’t really exist and I’m just dating a closet case, or that because of who I’m dating I am somehow “unclean” and unfit to give blood, despite the whole being HIV negative thing.

In 2005, researchers at Northwestern University did a study on male bisexuality, and came to the conclusion that male bisexuality didn’t exist. Their justification was that the men they study only reacted to images of gay porn, and they didn’t find any men who were a “3” on the Kinsey scale (ie, equally attracted to men and women). So evidently I’m dating someone who doesn’t really exist.

There aren’t a whole lot of examples of bisexual males in pop culture. David Bowie is currently married to Iman, but I am as much of a supermodel as my boyfriend is a rock legend. Bryan Safi did a hilarious “That’s Gay” segment on how TV shows like to have a stereotypical “gay best friend,” whose gayness is suddenly cured when he falls in love with an (unrealistically hot) woman. The only woman in TV/film who dated a bisexual man that I’ve ever seen was Velvet Goldmine‘s Mandy Slade, who was portrayed as a coke-snorting basket case. The film is quite good, albeit campy, but it’s sad that the only example of a woman dating a bi man in film winds up “paying” for it by ending up divorced, lonely, and miserable.

Network and cable news shows like to occasionally bring up the “down low lifestyle” as their “scandal of the week,” which is 500 different kinds of irritating, because it combines racial panic with gay panic: “Oh noes! Look at all of these black men! That have girlfriends! And occaisonally have sex with other men!” PANIC TIME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Society likes to categorize women by their relationships with men. Realizing that people can make sweeping judgements about me just because I’m dating a bi man only reinforces my belief that such categorization has got to stop. Plus, it would be nice to be able to give blood again.

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